On Tuesday in St. Paul, a Thai woman who participated in running an international sex trafficking ring out of the Twin Cities pleaded guilty to charges related to the operation.
Sumalee Intarathong, 61, is the final of 37 defendants convicted in the vast case, which was initially revealed in 2016, according to the office of Andrew Luger, U.S. attorney for Minnesota.
Intarathong pled guilty to one count each of conspiracy to conduct sex trafficking and conspiracy to participate in money laundering. Her hearing to determine punishment has not yet been set.
Intarathong was a high-ranking member of a criminal organization that recruited hundreds of underprivileged young women from Bangkok, Thailand, to migrate to the United States and act as sex workers, promising them a better life.
The victims were committed to debt bondage “contracts,” which forced them to pay off a debt of between $40,000 and $60,000 as prostitutes for the group, in return for a visa and passage to the U.S.
The ladies were effectively made into the property of the organization, with just a small portion of their earnings being kept, and they were forbidden to leave the house without an escort.
Intarathong worked for the group for seven years, recruiting women in Thailand and acting as the “house boss” for its operation in Minnesota, which operated out of hotels and flats in the Twin Cities.
She was detained in Belgium in August 2016 and extradited to the U.S. in February 2021.